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Innocence lost – Stories by Rabindranath Tagore (6)

Innocence lost Stories by Rabindranath Tagore

The Stories of Rabindranath Tagore continued, some linked and some independent of the previous or the following stories. What remained constant is the way Tagore has woven the stories, with characters that are undeniably real and the turn of events that tug at the heart strings every time. And when the characters involved are young and innocent children, the pain only doubles.

Moving on from The Broken Nest, the tale shifts to Mysore where Bhupati works. His trusted servant of many years asks for leave. Upon asking the reason, Raicharan, narrates his story.

 

Wafadar (Khokhababur Pratyabartan – The return of Khokhababu)

EpicWafadarRaicharan grows up along with Anukul, serving him and taking care of all his needs. Anukul grows up to be a lawyer while Raicharan remains his trusted servant. But after Anukul’s marriage, his wife starts taking care of his needs, leaving the faithful man lonely. But soon, Anukul’s little boy arrives and Raicharan’s joy knows no bounds as he is assigned to take care of the infant. The little boy whom Raicharan calls Nanhe Malik (Khokhababu), becomes his world and he takes every little care of him. But one day, while playing on the river bank, Raicharan loses the young toddler when he accidently drowns. Going literally insane, he conveys the news to the boy’s parents. Anukul’s wife accuses Raicharan of stealing her son and pleads to return him to her.

Grief stricken himself, Raicharan loses his job and starts ignoring his pregnant wife and widowed sister. Soon, his wife dies post child birth. Although, saddened with the loss of his wife, Raicharan feels that he has no right to enjoy being the father of a child when his own master is childless because of his own carelessness. Hence, he ignores the infant while his sister takes care of the motherless child. But soon, when his infant son grows up into a toddler, Raicharan finds resemblance of his nanhe malik in him. He now starts feeling that his nanhe malik has taken a rebirth in the form of his own son. He sells off his assets to bring him up as his master would bring up his own son. He enrolls him in the city school, calls himself his servant, pampers him with costly goodies time and again and heeds to his tantrums and needs. As a result, his son grows up as an arrogant young boy, spoilt with all the pampering and treats Raicharan as a worthless servant, as he is unaware of the truth. Soon, when he feels that it’s time, Raicharan takes his boy to Anukul and his wife and introduces him as their lost son. The bereaved parents, having no clue that the boy is actually Raicharan’s son, accept him wholeheartedly. But Raicharan, seeking to be taken back by them, receives no mercy. He leaves, dejected, having lost his Khokhababu once again, finds himself driven into the river waters, where he had first lost his nanhe malik.

A very poignant story, about the extent a man blames himself for a loss for which he wasn’t to be blamed in the first place. And his strong belief that his own son is actually the reincarnation of his nanhe malik and the will to bring him up as his young master, gives an idea about how far a man can go to affirm that belief.

But what strikes more in this story is how a child, born to a father who has spent his life serving others, is brought up in such a way, that he becomes arrogant, looks down upon people below his status and converts into a rich spoilt kid. This proves that little children are innocent souls who can be moulded into any which way, whether good or bad, kind or arrogant. It is upto the parents or guardians to guide them onto the right track, with the right behaviour. In the case of the story, the little boy, with love from his father and aunt, could have grown into a loving, humble boy. In the craze of Raicharan to bring him up as his master’s son, the innocence of the little boy is lost.

 

Chutti (Chutti – The Homecoming) 

EpicchuttiPhatik is a young boy who lives in a village with his widowed mother and brother. The leader of the boys of his age group, naughty to the core, his life is full of pranks, playing games with his friends, little tiffs with his younger brother for which he often gets scolded by his mother – all in all, a carefree childhood. Then, one fine day, his maternal uncle comes visiting after many years. Seeing the plight, his sister and her children live in, he decides to take along Phatik back to his home in Calcutta, to enroll him in school and give him the education and upbringing that he deserves. However, his wife and two sons aren’t happy with the sudden intrusion of this boy into their lives. But Phatik’s uncle is adamant, wants his nephew to stay in their house and mingle along with his sons; hoping that with time, this so-called unwanted irritant will soon be accepted by his family. But unfortunately, this remains only a dream.

Phatik is excited about his new school, but is time and again ridiculed by his cousins. His aunt too takes the sides of her sons and scolds Phatik for every little mischief that he knowingly or unknowingly does. Phatik requests his uncle to be sent back. But his uncle is not ready to give up. Soon, Phatik starts ignoring his cousins’ and aunt’s complaints and scoldings and dwells in his own world. When he asks his uncle about when could he visit his mother and brother, his uncle replies, when there is ‘chooti’ (holiday) in the school, which is the Puja holidays, almost three months later. A disheartened Phatik starts writing a letter in the name of his mother, where instead of complaining he praises the members of his new family and also asks her to permit him to visit him, for now he would neither be naughty nor fight with his younger brother. Later one day, when he is again severely scolded by his aunt, he decides to make the trip back home to his village, on his own.

His uncle, finding the boy missing is in panic mode, scolds his family for not cooperating in making the boy feel at home. When some fishermen bring an unconscious boy home, the uncle is shocked. They tell him that he was trying to go to his village via the river route. Finding the boy, burning in fever, the uncle fetches the doctor, who upon checking, conveys the news that the boy perhaps may not survive for long. Phatik’s uncle is crestfallen. He had taken over the duties of Phatik for his well-being, but now he has failed his sister. Phatik, in his unconscious condition, keeps calling his mother. His uncle sends word for her and soon Phatik’s mother arrives. Phatik bids adieu and goes on a ‘chutti’, a holiday, a very long one.

A story that turned tragic, which would not have been, if some simple behaviour patterns were checked. No person, whether young or old, likes to live in a hostile environment, where the people surrounding are looking to bring the person down all the time. A little love, a little understanding, a little co-operation would have gone a long way in bonding strong relationships, creating a harmonious environment and working towards an amicable and secured future. But Phatik received none of these and the life of an innocent boy was lost.

 

Waaris (Sampatti Samarpan – The trust property) 

Epic SBRT - Waaris - 4Yagyanath Kundu is a rich but miser man who lives with his son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Of all, he adores his grandson, Gokul, very much, playing with him all the time. He has secretly hidden his wealth and treasure at a hidden place which no one knows about. When his son asks him money to give better treatment to his ailing wife, the old man refuses. The son is rendered helpless as he watches his wife suffer and pass away for lack of a treatment which could have been easily afforded for. Fearing that the same fate may befall on his son, he leaves his father’s home taking his Gokul along.

Finding himself alone, separated from his beloved grandson, Yagyanath yearns for the little boy’s giggles and misses him badly. As years pass by, he soon starts behaving like a lunatic while the local boys start making fun of him. One day, among the naughty local boys, he meets a new boy, named Nitai, who claims that he ran away from home as his father was trying to enrol him in a school which he doesn’t want to go to. So, the old man offers to hide him in his house. Nitai happily tags along. The old man is happy to have the boy at his home and gets him all that he wants. The boy too is happy living a comfortable life with the friendly old man. Soon, news spreads about a young boy living with the lunatic old man. And when Yagyanath hears that the boy’s father is in town looking for his son, he decides that it’s time to execute his plan. The old man grabs Nitai’s hands and takes him into the hidden place where his wealth and treasure is kept. He performs a pooja and tells the boy to make a promise that he will take care of the treasure and when his grandson arrives he would handover all the property to him. This statement he forcefully makes him repeat again and again, multiple number of times, till the boy is tired, exhausted and on the verge of fainting. The old man is planning to make the boy a ‘jakh’. It was believed that when a boy is made a ‘jakh’, his spirit will safeguard the treasure until the real ‘waris’ would arrive. At this stage, the old man leaves him alone and seals the darkened place.

But next morning, he gets a shock when he is awakened by his son, who tells him that he is looking for Nitai, who is actually his son Gokul. He had changed names since he didn’t want to be known as relatives of Yagyanath Kundu. Hearing this, the old man, shivers, left speechless, fear in his eyes for the ghastly deed he has done, points towards the place where he left the boy. Nitai’s father runs towards the pointed direction. But perhaps it is too late.

Another story where a boy loses his life for no fault of his. A normal young boy, wanting to have a carefree life, but his fate his sealed for the old man he trusted turned out to be a merciless, selfish miser. The fact that he turns out to be his grandfather which he never gets to know about, doesn’t change the situation at all. He was a random boy who was made a victim by a crazy old man. A price he pays with his life, for running away from home to escape going to school. But is that really a price he ought to pay for behaving like many other kids of his age and time, normally would? An innocent boy, unaware of the adversities that lie ahead, loses his life.

(I thank Ms. Sayanee H. Lecter, for providing the information about jakh and throwing light on the whole ritual.) 

 

Mrinal ki Chitti (Streer Potro – Wife’s letter)

EpicMrinalWhat is the role of a woman in a society? Is it limited to being just the daughter or wife or the daughter-in-law? Does she not have her own individuality, independent of the relation that she is binded with the people in her life? Does she not have her own say in matters, her opinion to be seeked, her acceptance or objections to the goings-on? Basu’s ‘Mrinal ki chitti’ adapted from Tagore’s ‘Streer Potro’ is an excellent story that talks about the turmoils a woman goes through in a dominated household. But here too is a young child, who is quashed for no fault of hers.

The story starts with Mrinal arriving at the holy place of Lord Jagannath, Puri. Once here, she writes a letter, the very first and last one, to her husband, explaining what pains she had to go through in his household. After extreme scrutiny by the boy’s uncle and okayed by him, the beautiful Mrinal is married off in a rich household, much to the delight of her mother-in-law. Not being happy with her ordinary looking elder daughter-in-law, she had wanted a beautiful one for her younger son, to show off to her friends and relatives. Mrinal found her co-sister friendly but she had always been looked down upon by her husband and mother-in-law because of her incompetence. Thrust with conservative rules and regulations, both co-sisters had no say in the day-to-day decisions of the household. This also resulted in Mrinal losing her child during delivery as hygienic conditions were not provided because of conservative practices.

A distraught Mrinal seeks solace in writing poems which her husband thinks is not something she should waste her time in. Intelligent enough to solve accounting problems, her husbands rebukes the very idea and asks her to stay off such matters. But Mrinal continues writing secretly during her spare time, for that is the only thing that seems to give her happiness.

Her life changes when one day her elder co-sister’s niece arrives at their household. A girl in her early teens, Bindu is an orphan and is left to work at a home to fend for herself. But her employers spare no chance to humilate or beat her. On one such occasion, when she is beaten with a burning rod for breaking an expensive glass vase, Bindu runs away to seek solace at her maasi’s (aunt) place. But the maasi herself is helpless in her own household. However, it is Mrinal who decides that Bindu will not go back and will stay with them instead. Their mother-in-law and husbands are obviously not to happy with this unwanted intruder in their household. Taunts for Bindu pour in constantly from their side. Bindu’s own maasi, for fear of wrath from her mother-in-law, starts treating Bindu as a servant.

But Mrinal, works within the limitations that the household offers, starts taking care of Bindu, both growing fond of each other, gelling like a mother and daughter would. With this little love that she receives, Bindu starts living a joyous life, her innocent smile back on her face. However, this joy is only shortlived.

Since, they cannot directly send away Bindu from their house for fear of a society backlash, Mrinal’s in-laws decide to marry off the girl and send her away. Mrinal is taken aback with this decision, but she pacifies a wailing Bindu that perhaps this will be good for her as she will have her own household from where no one can send her away. No place could be as bad as the one she currently lives in. But she didn’t have a proper answer for the question Bindu raised, “Why is a rich, affluent family ready to accept a poor girl, without any dowry and agreeing to meet all marriage expenses?’ A young Bindu surely had the right doubts. Only if her new maasi had refused the alliance, she would have been with her forever. But that was not to be.

A few days after marriage, Bindu returns, bruised and injured. ‘He is a mad man, maasi’, Bindu tells to a shocked Mrinal. Agitated with the condition she finds Bindu in, Mrinal quarrels with her in-laws and demands an explanation. But, they demand that Bindu be sent back to her in-laws home for that’s where she belongs. Unable to see her new maasi fight with her in-laws for her sake, Bindu returns to her home.

Mrinal, has had enough. She decides to take Bindu away from the place that is worse than hell, to a place where she could breathe in peace. She decides to go to Puri. As she expected, her husband refuses to accompany. She calls her brother, gives him a letter and asks him to fetch Bindu secretly to the railway station. After bidding adieu to her husband she leaves for station.

Mrinal had finally taken a step forward to set things right. But was it just in time? While she waits at the station, her brother arrives with a half burnt letter from Bindu and with the news that Bindu is no more. She had set herself alight. A shattered Mrinal breaks down. She had failed to save her child yet again. But that does not change her mind to go back to her in-laws. She continues her onward journey to Puri, writes a letter to her husband from there and informs him that there is much more to do in her life than just to serve her narrow minded family. A resolution that perhaps got more stronger with the passing away of an innocent life. Bindu life didn’t deserve to have such an end. But in the midst of false egos and fake status dominance, an innocent life is lost.

A special mention I would like to make for the young actress who played Bindu, Jannat Zubair Rehmani. The way she enacted a distraught little girl, curbed by one and all, deserves a thundering applause.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    rhea sinha
    November 1, 2015 at 4:51 am

    Durga di you write with so much love of the shows.. feels like am almost watching it. Early writers, like Premchand too, could say so much in so little. Sometimes I felt absolutely removed from the world they showed me and still underlying it all felt too uncomfortably close to the truth. Sad how we can’t always hold onto or protect that innocence. Streer Potro story makes me the saddest.

    • Reply
      DurgaS
      December 30, 2015 at 5:13 pm

      Rhea, thanks so much. A sorry to you too for this extremely late reply. Streer Potro touched me the most too, perhaps because we could identify with what Mrinal was going through at every stage. A desire to do something to help but at the same time bounded and held back by these so called relationships that the society has thrust upon us. I am glad she broke out of this mould towards the end, but only if she could act in time to save Bindu, this would have been a happier ending.

      Streer potro is one of my fav episodes in SBRT. The way the story has been narrated from present to past, back and forth again and again, makes it a must watch.

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